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Hey Dude, Where's My Sign?

The hedge you see in the picture to the left is where my presidential lawn sign used to be. Apparently all the lawn signs in our immediate neighborhoods were stolen. Well, not all the lawn signs, only the signs of one particular presidential candidate. Never mind who that was, as it's not the important issue here. What is important is the preciousness of our democracy. My father, the survivor of three Nazi concentration camps is fond of telling me that "America is the greatest country in the world" and how fortunate he feels to be here. I agree with him. A democracy based on individual freedoms is quite special since it requires creating a framework that includes everyone with their differing religions, beliefs, and political persuasions, while not letting those beliefs intrude upon the freedoms of others.

To put it a different way, for us to preserve our democracy, each one of us must respect the freedom of expression and rights of people, whom we think have their head where the sun doesn't shine.

I find myself very disturbed during election time because of the polarization that occurs.  It becomes a war of "us" against "them" with no respect for the opinions of the other side. In reality there are no Red or Blue states. There are only 50 Red, White and Blue states. "United We Stand" does not mean "united we stand against each other". It means that together with our differences we build something stronger.

Unfortunately a media empire has been created on shows that emphasize and promote polarization. Even shows where supposedly issues are being discussed are really verbal boxing matches. No one is listening to each other and no one is trying to evolve the differing points of view into ideas that work for everyone. The election system has become a battle of marketers whose arsenal is made up of talking points, sound bites, and half-truths about the other candidate. It is not about finding out who people really are, what they stand for, and what their plans are for preserving this light of freedom on the hill that we call the United States.

On an individual level our willingness to listen to the opinions and beliefs of others is our personal responsibility to maintain our democracy. If we can really hear each other and understand the intentions and desires behind our differing points of view, we can manifest ideas that work for everyone. It is my hope in teaching Conscious Communication that I can contribute to your ability to maintain our democracy.

JOHN F. KENNEDY "Democracy is never a final achievement. It is a call to an untiring effort."

HERMANN GOERING: "Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

LYNDON B. JOHNSON: "We preach the virtues of democracy abroad. We must practice its duties here at home."

WILL ROGERS: "Elections are a good deal like marriages. There's no accounting for anyone's taste. Every time we see a bridegroom we wonder why she ever picked him, and it's the same with public officials."

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A Service Star Shines at a No Star Hotel

For various travel reasons too lengthy to explain I ended up flying into Amsterdam for some UK seminars. I didn't realize it was the busiest convention weekend of the year and ended up staying in a "hotel" that was different than any other I have experienced in my 22 years as a road warrior. To call it a "hotel" is really stretching it. I don't think it had any stars. It was more like the kind of place you go with your college buddies, in fact most of the rooms were dorms. I upgraded to a "triple" room, (which was three skinny beds in a dorm room), but it had it's own toilet. That toilet was in the hall and was no bigger than an airplane bathroom, but hey, it was mine! ;-) I also had a "desk" and even a chair. Of course there wasn't enough room to pull the chair out from the desk so I never got to sit in it. No air conditioning or heat,  just a good old-fashioned window for ventilation. And it was five flights of narrow winding stairs up to my concierge floor triple room with deluxe external toilet facilities. But there was something about this hotel that was as good if not better than 5 star Ritz Carltons and other resorts where I have performed programs. That was Sarah at the front desk. She was so genuinely welcoming and helpful. From hand writing the train schedule to the wonderful greeting she gave me every time I entered or left. No matter how busy she was she had time to make eye contact and smile. I have stood at the front desk of 5 star hotels waiting for two front desk employees to finish discussing some important piece of business that must have been related to national security because it obviously was more important to them than the Customer. But for Sarah nothing was more important than greeting each guest immediately, even when in the middle of handling multiple requests at the front desk from six college students with backpacks, who turned and looked at me with an expression like, "Dude, Dad's here!"

In my Customer service programs, I ask participants to consider a great service experience and to extract the essence which they can apply to their work. Here's my take on the experience of Sarah.

#1 People make the difference even when the circumstances are not ideal. #2 The quickness of her acknowledging me had an impact. It seemed she understood there was a "moment of truth" and timing was everything.  #3 Sarah was genuine. She was not just trained to "use the guests name" and "smile". She was in a genuine state of "welcoming" and it effused from every aspect of her being.  #4 She was 100% consistent over the three days I was there.

So what can I learn from this? People make the service difference with speed, genuineness and consistency.

Thank you Sarah for making this trip special. You're a service star! :-)